- The Washington Times - Monday, March 13, 2006

Law-enforcement officials along the Mexican border say they are outgunned and outmanned by drug smugglers armed with automatic weapons and grenades, and who use state-of-the-art communications and tracking systems.

“We recently received information that cartels immediately across our border are planning on killing as many police officers as possible on the United States side … for the purpose of attempting to ‘scare us’ away from the border,” said Zapata County Sheriff Sigifredo Gonzalez Jr., head of the 16-member Texas Border Sheriffs Coalition.

“They have the money, equipment and stamina to do it,” the sheriff said, adding that one confidential informant told coalition members the weapons available to U.S. authorities were “water guns compared to what we will have to come up against if we ever have to.”

Coalition members told Senate and House members last week that the federal government’s inability to secure the Southwest border has resulted in a dramatic rise in violence against U.S. authorities. They also said it has made it easier for terrorists planning attacks to enter the country.

“Terrorists have expressed an interest and a desire to exploit the existing vulnerabilities in our border security to enter or attack the United States,” Sheriff Gonzalez said.

He said he does not blame the law-enforcement agents; rather, “we criticize the policies that they have to adhere to.”

Sheriff Gonzalez said the Department of Homeland Security has issued bulletins to warn federal agents about Mexican drug cartels forming ties with members of al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations.

He told The Washington Times that the coalition is concerned about terrorists using Mexican drug and alien smugglers to cross the border.

During testimony before a House subcommittee, Sheriff Gonzalez said law-enforcement officers have found many items along the banks of the Rio Grande indicating ties to terrorist organizations.

He said Border Patrol agents found a jacket near the border with Arabic military badges, one with an airplane flying over a building and heading toward a tower.

El Paso County Sheriff Leo Samaniego told the House subcommittee that efforts to secure the border against narcoterrorism have not curbed the use of the border as the “most significant gateway of drugs” being smuggled.

“If illicit organizations can bring in tons of narcotics through this region and work a distribution network that spans the entire country, then they can bring in the resources for terrorism as well,” Sheriff Samaniego said.

He said that on the Southwest border, the same organizations involved in smuggling drugs also have been found to smuggle illegal aliens. He said smuggling terrorists, weapons or weapons components “would not be a far reach for these established organizations.”

Sheriff Samaniego said that although the federal government expects local law enforcement to help combat drugs and work to increase national security, it has reduced the resources available to state and local agencies.

Profits made by the drug cartels also have allowed them to hire and develop what Sheriff Gonzalez described as “experts” in explosives, wiretapping, countersurveillance, lock-picking and Global Positioning System technology.

“More and more we are seeing armed individuals entering our country,” he said. “We feel it is a matter of time before a shootout will occur.”

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